Pissed Off!

We’re pissed off …

… because we are tired of stepping in dog poop on the cobble stones of our streets.

Today, one dog – wearing a collar but no leash attached to a person – followed us as I walked our dog around town. Ours had a collar, along with a leash held in my hand. In my pocket was a stash of poopy bags. Bending over to scoop up my dog’s “litter,” the other dog lifted his leg against the wall in front of us. Immediately, a window opened above and a woman began berating me to clean up after my dogs.

Waving the plastic poopy bag in her direction and explaining that only one of the dogs was mine, “I did!” I insisted. “It’s this other dog who is making the mess … following us and not leaving us alone.

”She slammed the window.

This is the time of year that families and friends visit our village as it swelters in heat and humidity. All those vacated houses shut up for much of the year are flung open again, filled with lives producing lots of litter.

Accompanying the adults are their children and pets.

Suddenly, it’s not just one or two stray dogs meandering and messing on our streets—at times it’s nearly a dozen. Because people open the front doors to let their dogs out and about town to dispense their “necessities.”

I don’t doubt that they love them, but being responsible and respectful of others are other matters entirely … regardless of culture of local tradition.

“We are planning on spending this summer in Portugal and taking our dog,” someone recently remarked online. “He’s not very sociable and doesn’t tolerate other dogs. Everything’s fine if we walk on the street and the other dog is on a leash, too; but things get nasty if the other dog is roaming free with no leash–our dog takes it as a potential attack and goes crazy, barking and pulling unbelievably!”

So, it’s not just a matter of health and hygiene for dogs to be restrained on leashes, but the safety of others as well.

I know it is wrong for foreigners like us to move into another country, imposing our own sets of values and assessing appropriate behavior. But the laws of Portugal are being broken.

Recent legislation requires people to be responsible for their pets. According to current law, it is mandatory to put a leash on pets in public places—like our village streets.

Moreover, every cat and dog “walking” in public places must wear a collar or harness with the name, address, and/or telephone number of its owner clearly inscribed.

Dogs and cats that haven’t been neutered, but allowed to roam loosely on the streets will follow their natural instincts and biology. Which means that more unwanted puppies and kittens will either be abandoned to the streets or dealt with fatefully in a way that makes me cringe and breaks my heart … even though (some) people believe it’s more merciful than condemning them to a life on the street.

Street animals will always be with us. It’s just the way things are. My comments here aren’t about these destitute critters, but directed to people with pets: Not only are they part of your family, but you have responsibilities – legal obligations — to your dogs and cats, as well as to others who live in the community.

Noise is one of the biggest problems between dogs and the people living around them. You’re responsible for ensuring they don’t disturb your neighbors.

Anyone experiencing problems can contact the police (GNR or PSP) and request that they stop the source of the noise. If you don’t, they can alert the council … which will issue a minimum fine of 500 euros! (You’ll also be fined if driving with dogs or cats in the car that aren’t tethered to the seat belt clasps or in carrying crates or “containers.”)

In addition to walking with pets on leashes in public places (and, presumably, picking up after them), and keeping them from being noisy neighbors, Portuguese law requires that you register your pet and have it licensed at the town hall (Junta de Freguesia) where you and the dog (or cat) live.

You’ll need a health report for the animal (with an up-to-date rabies vaccination) and documentation that an electronic identification chip has been implanted by a veterinarian in the left lateral side of the neck. You then have 30 days to register and license your pets(s) … and the registration must be renewed annually.

(Leave it to Portugal to identify dogs and cats as belonging to specific categories: Category A – Pet dog; B – Dogs for your economic livelihood; C – Dogs for military purposes; D – Dogs for scientific research; E – Hunting dogs; F – Guide dogs; G – Potentially dangerous dogs; H – Dangerous dogs; and I – Cats.Category G includes: Rottweilers, Brazilian Fila Dogs, Argentine Dogo, Pitt Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, and Tosa Inu.)

People, please respect the rights of others by overseeing your pets. And if you’re planning to move to Portugal (or Spain, which imposes similar requirements and restrictions on pets and their people), be aware of what will be expected of you … and your furry family.

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Disclaimer: I share these stories of our experiences not to complain or seek sympathy, but because we are North Americans acculturating to another country’s norms and expectations. Information in posts such as this aren’t found in tourist or relocation guides … nor asked about and answered in most Facebook groups. Hopefully, some will learn from my anecdotes and be better prepared for the grit and grist, the grain of living abroad. We love Portugal for what it is, not what it isn’t, and have no intention of returning to the USA.

Bruce is publisher and creative director of Portugal Living Magazine. Read the current online issue and subscribe to the magazine at no cost whatsoever: http://portugallivingmagazine.com/our-current-issue

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